11: Long As I Can Grow It

Hair loss seems to be a defining element of cancer. It can be one of the first visible signs that someone is a cancer patient. It significantly changes how you look and returns you to a state you haven't known since baby-hood. Movies and TV shows about cancer patients focus on it. People hold head-shaving parties where their friends and family shave their own heads in a show of support. The St. Baldrick's Foundation does a fundraiser each year, where people shave their heads in return for pledge money for pediatric cancer research. 

(When they advertised this fundraiser at my kids' school, I asked Owen and Lucia how much money they would give me if I shaved my head. I thought my joke was hilarious. They just thought my joke was dumb. I wrote it off as them, once again, just not being old enough to appreciate my enlightened sense of humor.)

Just before I started chemo, I cut my hair (which was well below my shoulders) to about chin-length. When it first started falling out, I got a pixie cut. (This was a bit awkward, because when I went to the cheap haircut place down the street, the lady kept telling me not to worry about her cutting it too short because if I didn't like it, it would just grow out in a few weeks. I didn't have the heart to tell her that no, that wasn't going to happen). When it really started to fall out, my SO took the clippers to it and cut it very short.

For those who are curious: You know how when you brush your hair, a small amount of hair comes out in the brush? Well, it's like that, only one day, a lot more hair comes out in the brush. Not in clumps, just like more hair. And you keep brushing it, and more hair keeps coming out. And even with the pixie cut, and then with the buzz cut, it's a lot of hair. I would lean over the tub and run my hands through my hair to try and get the loose hairs out. Seriously, it looked like I had just bathed several dogs in that bathtub. But kudos to my SO for having no qualms, whatsoever, about giving me that buzz cut.

Yes, my hair falling out was a bit emotional. Of course, I'd known it was coming, but it was still hard. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt fine. I felt healthy. For the most part, I was healthy. Me being upset about my hair falling out wasn't about me being bald. It was about having solid, concrete evidence staring at me every day, telling me that I was sick. I was sick, and things were not okay. That was hard.

(Another note for those who are curious: It turns out that my head is very round (not bumpy) and has a lot of freckles.)

My rapid hair loss wasn't just about me, though. It also affected my kids. We had talked about the fact that my hair would fall out after I started chemo, but it was still a regular topic of discussion. Including this gem:

But really, how many kindergarteners actually have a good mastery of negative numbers? I think she'll still be okay.

There was also a bedtime conversation that went like this:
Lucia: Why did you choose to take a medicine that made your hair fall out?
Me: Well, I had two choices. I could not take the medicine, but then the tumor cells would spread to other parts of my body and make those parts sick, or I could take the medicine and kill the tumor cells but also have my hair fall out.
Lucia (after a moment of pondering): I think you made the right choice.

And after that, she was fine with it. By the time I was completely bald, she had taken to calling me, "Professor Mama," as a reference to "Professor X" from X-Men. My glorious baldness became an ongoing joke with the kids. Also, making good on my promise from a previous post, there was this:

I stand by what I said on Facebook when I posted this: I challenge anyone to say I can't totally rock this look.

The wig was another Lucia selection, and man, that wig is awesome. This wig became my "party hair," and I got a lot of compliments from adults and kids alike.